A Day in the Life of A Bilingual Family When the Parents Aren’t Bilingual

 


A lot of emotions swirl around every day as a parent, but when your children are bilingual and the parents are monolingual, there tends to be a wider range of emotions related to language on a daily basis.

From navigating disagreements between my kids and their friends to ordering food for all of us at a local restaurant to speaking with the teachers at drop-off and pick-ups, I’m always met with this clash of emotions due to my spotty comprehension of the local language.

If only you learned more!” I scold myself. Well, if it were that easy, it would be easy, but it’s not.

On a daily basis, I will feel all of these emotions within seconds or minutes of one another.

Feeling embarrassed, guilty, defiant, and proud all within a short span of time can have any parent who is balanced on the verge of losing it feel completely overwhelmed.

 

Frustration

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When you can’t understand what your child’s friend is saying, and you don’t know why one of them is crying but you still want to help.

 

Embarrassment

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When a child (maybe a stranger’s kid) corrects your pronunciation when you were proud of yourself for speaking the local language very clearly (in your mind, anyway).

 

Confusion

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When it takes you an extra five minutes to discern what your kid’s teacher is saying because you missed the context.

What was it you wanted me to do on Thursday? Something important is happening on Thursday, but I have no idea what it is.

 

Pride

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When you watch your kids seamlessly switch between languages depending on who they are speaking with, and everyone feels included.

 

Guilt

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When your communication with your kids is slightly strained because your brains process information slightly differently between the two languages.

 

Guiltless

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When saying “No” in a foreign language feels “softer” than in your native tongue, so you say it more often without feeling as much guilt.

It doesn’t feel like “No” when I say “Nej”.

 

 

Defiance

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When you can’t express yourself as well as you’d like in the local language but you keep finding excuses not to learn it.

 

Determination

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Knowing that no matter how well you think you speak the local language, you’ve accepted the fact that you’ll always have an accent.

 

Love

 

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When you see the bonds between your children and your parents (their grandparents) hasn’t diminished with multiple languages, distance, or time because everyone makes an effort.

 

My other struggles with the local language:

What To Do When You Speak Like A Five-Year-Old

 

5 Reasons to Not Learn the Local Language

 

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